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UK operator Apache under attack

UK operator Apache under attack
Apache was accused yesterday of breaking ranks with other North Sea operators and refusing to comply with an agreement on paid leave and pay increases for contractor employees.

Apache was accused yesterday of breaking ranks with other North Sea operators and refusing to comply with an agreement on paid leave and pay increases for contractor employees.

A spokesman for the oil company later responded to the union outcry, however, by saying that it was not party to the agreement and that people who worked on its platforms were already fairly compensated.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, said US-based Apache had said “no” to four weeks’ paid leave and a 4.3% pay increase backdated to April despite both being agreed by member companies of the Offshore Contractors’ Association (OCA). He estimated that more than 150 people working on Apache platforms would be affected.

Willie Wallace, regional officer of the Amicus union, said Apache and another, unnamed, operator had not yet endorsed the agreement reached with unions in September.

He said it was an unacceptable situation for members who had voted in favour of the offer in good faith that it would be delivered.

Mr Molloy added: “Resolving the ‘Apache problem’ will not address the bigger issues related to these deals.

“The OCA mechanisms have broken down irreparably and it is time for a complete overhaul of the system being used for collective bargaining in the UK offshore environment today.”

OCA chief executive Bill Murray said: “The new (holiday) entitlement has been fully implemented and accepted by the vast majority of contractors and clients.

“It is disappointing that, so far down the line, any operator has been unable to agree commercial terms with their contractors to enable 100% implementation.

“This commercial stance has introduced a delay and is preventing our member companies from honouring their obligation to apply terms and conditions that match the partnership agreement.

“I don’t feel, that in these turbulent times, it is appropriate to be turning away from a tried and tested bargaining arrangement which provides a broad range of benefits in the fields of employment, terms, safety and training.”

Mr Murray added, however, that the OCA partnership agreement with unions was far from dead.

He said: “Our members have 9,000 employees working offshore, of whom more than 8,000 already benefit from the full terms of the agreement.”

Bill Mintz, a spokesman for Forties field operator Apache, stressed that his company was not a party to the agreement, which was between contractors and the unions.

He added that contractors’ employees working for Apache were paid to work two weeks on and two weeks off, with 14 days’ paid leave: a situation which he described as “fair”.

“We also pay enhanced rates substantially above the negotiated rates.

“The people who work on our platforms are already fairly compensated.”

Mr Mintz also said the economic environment had changed, with much lower oil prices, adding: “Our goal is to upgrade and improve our facilities to extend the life of the Forties field.

“We need to control our costs if we are going to do this.”

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of industry body Oil and Gas UK, said: “Oil and Gas UK does not, and has no interest in, interfering with the negotiation of employees’ terms and conditions.

“Indeed, the existing agreement between OCA, Unite and GMB has proved wholly effective in facilitating such negotiations in the past, and we believe that industrial relations are best dealt with through such channels.”

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